[permaculture] Permaculture wikis & making a major impact

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Thu Dec 24 02:57:47 EST 2009

One more to complete an introductory picture of Semantic MediaWiki for 
those interested. The database-like query possibilities of SMW are very 
interesting. This sentence sort of sums it up: "But though wikis are 
very good for storing and retrieving individual facts, they are less 
useful for getting queried or aggregated information." Amazing that this 
app development happened and is available to us. See bottom of post:

Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
> Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
>> Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
>>> Chris Watkins wrote:
>>>> There's a misconception that wikis will magically create a useful resource,
>>> Well, here's a little magic that could be made to happen:
>>> http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Semantic_MediaWiki
>>> "Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) is a free extension of MediaWiki – the 
>>> wiki-system powering Wikipedia – that helps to search, organise, tag, 
>>> browse, evaluate, and share the wiki's content. While traditional wikis 
>>> contain only text which computers can neither understand nor evaluate, 
>>> SMW adds semantic annotations that let you easily publish Semantic Web 
>>> content, and allow the wiki to function as a collaborative database."
>>> Note: " allow the wiki to function as a collaborative database".
>>> This is what we have been wanting for half a decade.
>> An enlightening testimonial about SMW:
>> http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Testimonials
>> "SMW is best of breed: open source with a very active community, 
>> bringing together Web 2.0 (wikis) with the Semantic Web, thus 
>> contributing to the emerging Social Semantic Web. An ideal mix to 
>> combine the textual power of wikis with features of online databases and 
>> semantics.
>> Bernhard Krabina, KDZ - Centre for Public Administration Research "
>> So, it appears that there are user communities dedicated to a particular 
>> subject that are becoming cyber communities united around the Semantic 
>> Web architecture. We could be the first to originate the Permaculture 
>> Semantic Web. Talk about a unifying global permaculture resource. This 
>> could be what we are all wanting and needing.
> Another interesting testimonial:
> "I built a dynamic character sheet for the players of my game, in 
> MediaWiki. It's been a breeze to maintain and update, I've got almost 
> 200 pages or so feeding data into a single page through semantic data. 
> It's a very powerful extension and I only wish all wikis had this kind 
> of functionality.
> Brendan Crosser-McGay"
> Interesting that markup is so concentrated that 200 pages of data can be
> thoroughly acces by one SMW page.
> All my posting and replying with snippets here could and should be done 
> in a Wiki page. Problem is those interested knowing it is there. Could 
> create the wiki page then post a link here and ask for feedback. This 
> thread could also exist in the pcdb list, for wiki developers rather 
> than end users.

   Why Semantic Mediawiki?

Wikis have become a great tool for collecting and sharing knowledge in 
communities. This knowledge is mostly contained within texts and 
multimedia files, and is thus easily accessible for human readers. But 
though wikis are very good for storing and retrieving individual facts, 
they are less useful for getting queried or aggregated information.. As 
a simple example, consider the following question:

     «What are the hundred world-largest cities with a female mayor?»

Wikipedia should be able to provide the answer: it contains all large 
cities, their mayors, and articles about the mayor that tell us about 
their gender. Yet the question is almost impossible to answer for a 
human, since one would have to read all articles about all large cities 
first! Even if the answer is found, it might not remain valid for very 
long. Computers can deal with large datasets much easier, yet they are 
not able to support us very much when seeking answers from a wiki: Even 
sophisticated programs cannot yet read and «understand» human-language 
texts unless the topic and language of the text is very restricted. The 
wiki's keyword search does not help either.

Semantic MediaWiki enables wikis to make their knowledge 
computer-processable, e.g. to answer the above question.
Where SMW can help

Semantic MediaWiki introduces some additional markup into the wiki-text 
which allows users to add "semantic annotations" to the wiki. While this 
first appears to make things more complex, it can also greatly simplify 
the structure of the wiki, help users to find more information in less 
time, and improve the overall quality and consistency of the wiki. Here 
are some of the benefits of using SMW:

     * Automatically-generated lists. Wikis tend to contain many 
aggregated lists; Wikipedia itself has thousands, like "List of 
metropolitan areas in Spain by population". Those lists are prone to 
errors, since they have to be updated manually. Furthermore, the number 
of potentially interesting lists is huge, and it is impossible to 
provide all of them in acceptable quality. In SMW, lists are generated 
automatically like this. They are always up-to-date and can easily be 
customised to obtain further information.

     * Visual display of information. The various display formats 
defined by additional extensions, such as Semantic Result Formats and 
Semantic Maps, allow for displaying of information in calendars, 
timelines, graphs and maps, among others, providing a much richer view 
of the data than simple lists would.

     * Improved data structure. MediaWiki wikis tend to make heavy use 
of categories for structuring data. While these are generally helpful, 
consider the categories on Wikipedia called "Rivers in Buckinghamshire" 
and "1620s deaths"; if the information in these pages were stored using 
SMW, these categories could be replaced by simple queries, reducing the 
need for a complex classification system. In addition, if semantic 
markup within the wiki is stored within templates, otherwise known as 
semantic templates, a wiki can easily gain a solid data structure. And 
the Semantic Forms extension lets administators create forms for adding 
and editing the data within semantic templates, thus making the addition 
of semantic information possibly even easier and more straightforward 
than regular wiki text.

     * Searching information. Individual users can search for specific 
information by creating their own queries, supported via extensions like 
Halo and Semantic Drilldown.

     * Inter-language consistency. In wikis that span multiple 
languages, like Wikipedia, there is often a great deal of data 
redundancy, which can lead to inconsistencies. For example, the 
population of Edinburgh at the time of this writing is different in the 
English, German, and French Wikipedias. If data is stored semantically, 
you could, for instance, ask for the population of Bejing that is given 
in the Chinese Wikipedia without knowing a single word of that language. 
This can be exploited to have different languages query one another's 
data, either for reuse or at least to detect inconsistencies.

     * External reuse. Data, once it is created in an SMW wiki, does not 
have to remain within the wiki; it can easily be exported via formats 
like CSV, JSON and RDF. This enables an SMW wiki to serve as a data 
source for other applications, or, in the case of enterprise usages, to 
take over the role that a relational database would normally play. 
Through the use of the External Data extension and the result format 
Exhibit, one SMW-based wiki can even use the data from another, 
eliminating the need for redundancy between wikis. You can also query 
the semantic data in SMW from remote and feed the query results into 
other applications. This can e.g. be realized via the Triple Store 

     * Integrate and mash-up data. Data contained in an SMW installation 
does not have to be an isolated store of information. Extensions such as 
the Data Import, Data Transfer and External Data extensions empower you 
to integrate external data (coming e.g. from legacy systems, web 
services or linked data sources) and interrelate it with existing 
semantic data in the wiki. Thus, an SMW-powered wiki can serve as a 
central information hub in an IT landscape.

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